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November 2019

- Ali -

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"Do you already know what you want to paint in Costa Rica?" my friend Monika asked me shortly before we left. – "Above all animals. Monkeys, toucans, hummingbirds, butterflies..." – "Now, you have set yourself a difficult challenge there, haven't you?" Monika wondered. – "And a lot of sloths," I added. – "Well, at least they're easy to paint." I nodded, because that's exactly what I thought, and I saw myself sitting comfortably in the jungle in front of a sloth hanging motionless from a thick branch at eye level. The ideal model for a painter.

The sloths, however, which my husband Klaus and I saw on our hikes through national parks, huddled dozily high up in the foliage. What to do? Klaus had read about a rescue station for injured jungle animals in the travel guide and so, without hesitation, we asked if we could come by. "If you like, you can paint my favourite Ali in the enclosure behind my house," the manager offered when we arrived a few days later. While Klaus looked at the many other animals that had been found injured or orphaned and brought there by gamekeepers, I positioned myself in front of the small oval enclosure. Here a strong three-finger sloth sat slumbering on a branch fork at eye level. And so I already began my painting. But I had hardly brought the first brush strokes on paper, as the hat on my head moved very slowly. Well, who was joking with me? When I looked up, I looked very closely into the extremely friendly and endearingly smiling face of a young two-finger sloth with light brown fur. Now he slowly pulled his long arm back, wrapped it around the next branch and turned in slow motion through the enclosure without ever letting me out of his sight.

So that was Ali the director had told me about. His round face with the light brown button eyes, the pink nose, the soft lips and that special smile. I will never forget him – and certainly not this afternoon, when Ali climbed through the branches, very slowly but unceasingly, and I followed him with the brush. The strength in his arms and legs was enormous, because without any momentum he was pulling himself up everywhere. Sometimes it occurred to him to fish for my brush. "That, my dear Ali, goes too far. I need it myself," I said again and again and told him all sorts of interesting things about myself, life and the world. Ali kept on struggling and listened with a smile. "Did you actually paint him from the front or from the back?" enquired Klaus later looking at the finished painting, “I don't know that myself. I think, both actually.”

 

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